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New JUUL policy could threaten some local businesses

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The FDA declared e-cigarettes an "epidemic" among youth. Photo by Max Ramsey

With flavored e-juice sales being banned in stores, local business owners ponder solutions.

In the wake of the new JUUL policy stopping the sale of flavored e-cigarette juices in stores, some local businesses are preparing for a shift in their operational strategies.

JUUL Labs announced via press release on Nov. 13 that it will cease the sale of flavored juices like mango and cucumber to the over 90,000 retail stores that sell JUUL pods, effective immediately. Some flavors, like tobacco and mint, will continue to be sold at retailers.

Furthermore, purchasing JUUL products — including fruit flavored juices — on their website will now require the consumer to be above age 21 and provide a Social Security number for verification.

Some local stores, such as Mike’s Dog Shack, are concerned the new policy may change the way businesses sell e-cigarettes. Mike Carson, owner of Mike’s Dog Shack, said traditional cigarettes sales have gone to the wayside for the burgeoning e-cigarette industry.

He said the flavored juices like mango were by far his biggest sellers, and the new policy will have negative effects on his business.

“JUUL came in last year as probably my number one profit-maker,” Carson said. “It’s definitely going to cut into business for us.”

Carson continued that the tobacco e-juice flavors are by far his worst sellers, but said the mint flavor sells well. He is, however, concerned that losing variety will in the end, lose customers.

“The fact is that a variety gives people options, so losing that option cuts out at least a percentage of your business,” Carson said.

Carson anticipates more people switching over to different brands that provide more options, like Suorin, another e-cigarette company that uses refillable pods rather than proprietary pre-filled pods.

An Athens business that has already made the transfer from cigarettes and JUUL to a wider variety of e-cigarettes is Silver Serpent Exotic Gifts. James Wanke, general manager, expects his business to continue unimpeded.

Wanke attributes the success of Silver Serpent’s business model to the variety and size of its e-cigarette section and its reliance on e-cigarette or vape models other than JUUL.

“Vaping certainly existed before JUUL, and it is certainly going to exist after JUUL,” Wanke said.

Wanke also said he believes that the vapor and e-cigarette industries have done an excellent job of self-regulation, but he sees government regulations in the imminent future.

Specifically, Wanke said he sees certain stores receiving a license from the government to sell vapor products. He continued that most minors are getting access to flavored e-juices from convenience stores and gas stations, not vapor stores.

“Sensible regulation is all that I hope would come from it,” Wanke said. “There is a lot of misinformation and a lack of safety resources for understanding government regulations.”

Wanke said he has seen a huge decline in sales of cigarettes at his store, similar to Carson. He said when the Silver Serpent opened in 2016, he used to sell 300 packs of cigarettes a week; cigarette sales have almost completely dropped off.

“It’s a very noticeable and obvious shift,” Wanke said. “We’re more vapor than ever now.”

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